“I just want to understand why this thing is magical. I want to see the trick, the sleight of hand that’s going on,” says Aya Sinclair, better known simply as aya, about her approach to music. “I like trying to get inside things, and understand how things work.”
aya’s investigative creative methods first revealed themselves as LOFT, the alias she used between 2009 and 2019. Under that moniker, her experimental club sound took shape, re-contextualising a whole spectrum of dancefloor styles with new ideas.
“I intentionally combined things from everywhere, because that’s the music that excited me the most,” she says. Her 2016 track ‘Heffalump’ on Astral Plane caused a stir with its maximalist take on UK techno, which caught the attention of Wisdom Teeth’s Facta. “I had quite a few UK techno people getting in touch at that time. Joy Orbison got at me for Hinge Finger! I flipped! But that didn’t make sense for me at the time,” she says. She dropped her ‘Three Settlements Four Ways’ EP via Wisdom Teeth in 2017, which was followed in 2019 by a self-released collection of bootlegs and wild edits, ‘ell oh eff tea too oh won ate’. Later that same year, she released the striking ‘and departt from mono games’ EP on Tri Angle.
In January 2020, aya retired LOFT with ‘are eye pea ell oh eff tea’, a package of previously unreleased tracks spanning the alias’ 10-year reign. “The name [LOFT] didn’t mean anything to me anymore,” she explains. “With coming out and changing my personal name, I’d figured out the person I wanted to be, and how I wanted to do things.”
As aya, she reached a poignant new milestone this autumn with the release of her debut album, ‘im hole’, on Hyperdub. This autobiographical LP sees her introducing cutting verses, spoken, rapped and snarled in her Yorkshire accent, over her bold, combinatory production style. In the album’s opening 10 minutes alone, she dips into elements of grime and bleep, dancehall and post-dubstep. These genre cues feel proudly UK-centric, and point to the lifelong importance of music to aya’s identity.
Raised in Huddersfield, aya has fond memories of her creative childhood home, which was soundtracked by electronic bands like Underworld and Leftfield, who were taking ravier sounds into the mainstream. “We did a lot of little recording projects when I was a kid,” she remembers of making music with her dad. “We used to write these songs all about the oddities of Huddersfield and West Yorkshire moorland living.” This connection to her home county is one that flows through ‘im hole’. On ‘Emley lights us moor’, named after Yorkshire’s Emley Moor tower, you hear the link up of regional tongues between herself and the Mancunian producer and vocalist Iceboy Violet over a misty beat.